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Cleaning the house always feels like a major accomplishment; by that, I don’t mean light, regular wipe-down. I cleaned out my closet, Michael’s domain (the garage and he probably hasn’t noticed until now…), the garden shed (which is more of a cupboard), and the pantry. Spring cleaning makes me feel powerful in unexpected ways. I’ve let go of things I haven’t used in a year, and they can now move on to find a more functional life in someone else’s home. Included in this ritual was my yearly clearing out of spices that were way too old (six months or more); I poured them into the gopher holes in my backyard.
I also used all the dried fruit to make buns. Yes, I made hot cross buns, an excuse to empty my pantry and make fresh space for a new batch of dried fruit.
Hot cross buns are particularly riddled with nostalgia for me. As a kid, I’d go with my grandfather to pick up warm buns from the local bakery by his home in Bombay. Starting February (and I think it kept showing up earlier and earlier with every passing year), the bakery’s glass windows would be stacked with tall piles of warm hot cross buns whose sweet scent permeated the entire room, and I swear I could smell it a few blocks away. I’d return to my grandparent’s home, slice open a warm bun, and slather a big heaping of cold salted butter and sometimes a big spoonful of jam. The entire bun was finished with a cup of milky warm tea. Nostalgia is a powerful driver of action; the catalyst that makes me cook is probably 90% or more. I’m trying to replicate a recipe as closely as possible to the first or most memorable time I ate it or see if I can apply it elsewhere. My love for hot cross buns is nostalgia-driven, 100%.
I’m a big fan of the tangzhong method (history here), which is a really marvelous way to make breads softer and stay fresh longer. The process is very simple - a small quantity of flour and water or some water-based liquid like milk is mixed and cooked over low heat. As the mixture heats up, the starch in flour starts to absorb water, gelatinize, and thicken to form a viscous paste. This paste is mixed with a larger quantity of flour and other ingredients to form the dough. The dough can now absorb much more water. Hence, this hot cross bun recipe uses a large quantity of milk. As a result, the bread will be softer, less chewy, and won’t harden as quickly as bread made without the tangzhong method. In one of my trials, hot cross buns made without the tangzhong method turned stiff after 16 hours of storage at room temperature. The tops got hard quickly! The tangzhong-made buns were soft for at least 3 days at room temperature.
For the dried fruit, there are three options. Steep them in hot alcohol like St. Germain, whiskey, or some other flavored spirit, use a fruit juice like apple or orange, or add them directly. Steeping helps soften the dried fruit and adds an extra layer of flavor in the case of flavored alcohols and fruit juices. I always joke that it “revives the dead" and dried”. I usually stick with currants, raisins, apricots, cherries, candied citrus peels, and the like, but if you feel inclined to be a bit spicy the day you’re making them, try chopped crystallized ginger. A tablespoon or two should be sufficient.
I prefer making the buns in a square pan because I can serve them like pull-apart rolls, but you can shape the balls of dough and space them out on a baking sheet to get a more rounded appearance.
More Tangzhong Recipes
I’ve applied the tangzhong method in other bread recipes; try the chilli crisp cream cheese stuffed rose buns and the perfect cinnamon rolls. This won’t be the last time you’ll see me using it.
Until next time,
Nik Sharma Cooks | The Recipe Index
Can’t wait to try these! Good Friday in our house in New Zealand we have friends around in the morning to drink coffee and eat two or three types of hot cross bun I’ve made 🥰. Also I love that your instructions include folding in dried fruit! Every time I read “folding” in a recipe I have to watch the Schitt’s Creek “fold in the cheese” clip and laugh myself silly 😂.